Human Animal Interaction

MA, MSc, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma

Psychology at Stirling is one of the leading psychology departments in the UK. It ranked in the top 20 in the recent research assessment (REF 2014).


Interactions between humans and other animal species are ubiquitous. We are an inevitable part of the lives of all captive animals, be they zoo-housed, companion, working, laboratory or farmed animals. We also interact with animals in nature.  Many of our interactions lead to positive outcomes for humans and animals alike, though the outcomes of our interactions vary considerably depending upon context.

This unique programme will introduce students to interdisciplinary approaches and a diverse range of methods used to research our interactions with other animal species. In this course we consider human-animal interactions across a diverse range of contexts from pet owning to animal-assisted interventions, interactions in zoos, on farms and conservation. Students will learn about the importance of both human and animal behaviour in shaping human animal interaction, and the associated ethical issues, as well as gaining skills to be able to critically evaluate methods for measuring attitudes, interactions and their outcomes.

The course’s innovative approach combines training and teaching in psychological research methods with hands-on experience during a practical placement in a human animal interaction-relevant context, and the opportunity to engage in a human animal interaction research project.

Psychology at the University of Stirling has a vibrant research culture and our taught postgraduate students are fully integrated in the research community, meeting up for weekly research seminars and informal specialist discussion groups. Psychology masters students have access to a dedicated suite of study and teaching rooms.

Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a postgraduate taught degree in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic year will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will be eligible for the same tuition support as Scottish domiciled students.

  • Qualification: MA, MSc, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma
  • Study methods: Campus based, Full-time, Part-time
  • Start date:


  • Course Director: Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith
  • Location: Stirling Campus
Download postgraduate prospectus

Linda Cullen

Postgraduate Secretary

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A minimum of a second class Honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.0 with 5.5 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade C
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 54 with 51 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 80 with no subtest less than 17

For more information go to English language requirements

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Flexible Learning

If you are interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email to discuss your course of study.

Application procedure

Please use the contact details on this page in the first instance if you are interested in this course.

Fees and costs


2018/19 Overseas MSc - £15,250
2018/19 Home/EU MSc - £6,300


Fees for all new applicants to postgraduate taught courses are held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships & funding

SAAS Postgraduate Loans

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) is now offering a generous loan scheme to assist eligible Scottish and EU-domiciled students pursuing a Masters at the University of Stirling during 2018/19. Find out more about SAAS Postgraduate Loans

There are typically five £1,000 competitive bursaries to contribute towards fees or maintenance costs for students beginning a taught Masters course. All students, including international students, formally accepted onto the MSc course are eligible to apply for these awards. 

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

Psychology has powerful methods to help better understand our interactions with animals. The course comprises modules designed to provide training in the fundamentals of research methods and how these apply to the study of human animal interactions. 

 The MSc modules include:

  • Human Animal Interactions
  • Research Methods in Psychology
  • Analysis Methods in Psychological Research
  • Key Skills for Psychology Researchers
  • Research placement
  • Dissertation

The MA students take a module on Qualitative Data Analysis instead of the Analysis Methods in Psychology module, and another module from a range of option (such as Child Development, Autism, Psychology of Faces or Evolutionary Psychology).

For both the MA and MSc alternative modules from the other taught MSc courses can also be taken for credit, or audit with the agreement of the Course Coordinator.

Human-Animal Interactions

The core Human Animal Interactions module explores the human-animal relationship in terms of both human wellbeing and animal behaviour/welfare. It covers topics such as attitudes to animals, and the human animal bond, the welfare of animals, Animal Assisted Interventions with different populations, legislation, wildlife conservation, coexistence and ecotourism, interaction with animals in a range of contexts (e.g. pet, farm, laboratory, zoo etc), abnormal human animal interactions and animal phobias, and evaluating outcomes and societal impact.

In addition, there is an external placement module and an individual research project. The individual module components contribute towards 60 percent of the MA/MSc grade, with the research dissertation contributing the remaining 40 percent.

The Masters can be taken is a one year full-time (12 month) or part-time (24 month) course and can be studied as an MA or MSc (dependent on whether the focus is on quantitative or qualitative methodologies).  Selected components of this Masters programme can also be taken to gain a postgraduate certificate or a diploma as continuing professional development for those already working in this area. 

Delivery and assessment

Teaching is delivered using a variety of methods including tutorials, demonstrations and practical classes, but the majority is seminar-based.  Students are typically taught in small groups in specialist classes, or with first year PhD students or other postgraduate students (for example, in modules from other MSc courses).

A range of assessment methods are used across the programme, including:

  • research proposals
  • critical reviews
  • a logic model
  • reflective journals for placements
  • oral presentations
  • popular science articles
  • dissertation


MSc full time

Semester 1

Semester 2

Semester 3

MA full time

Semester 1

Select one other module from the MA Human-Animal Interaction options list - all 20 credits, level 11:

 Semester 2

Semester 3

Recommended reading

Some suggested text books

Dolins F. L. Ed. (1999) Attitudes to animals: views in animal welfare. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Fine A. H. Ed. (2010) Handbook on animal-assisted therapy : Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice. Amsterdam; London : Academic Press.

Manfredi M.J. (2008) Who cares about wildlife? Social Science concepts in exploring human-wildlife relationships and conservation issues. New York: Springer

McCardle, P. et al Eds. (2011) Animals in our lives: human-animal interaction in family, community, and therapeutic settings. London : Paul H. Brookes.

Modes of study

Two semesters for Diploma, 12 months for MSc/MA.

Four semesters for the Diploma, 24 months for MSc/MA.

Why Stirling?


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes students from around the world. Find out what studying here could be like for you .

Study abroad opportunities

As a 12 month course there is limited opportunity to study abroad. However, students may be able to undertake a placement or conduct data collection for their research project at suitable organisations outside the UK.  


Psychology at Stirling has extensive experience in delivering placement modules and we have excellent links with partners in industry and the third sector. Established partnerships with relevant organisations also offer research projects to students, within the Making the Most of Masters framework -

Members of the teaching team also have experience in establishing an animal assisted intervention programme as a social enterprise:

University of Stirling has notable capacity within the area of human-animal interaction, ranging from

  • the study of animal behaviour and animal welfare
  • aquaculture
  • conservation
  • animal assisted therapy and support
  • education and entertainment

Students would be encouraged to join the Behaviour and Evolution Research Group which meets weekly throughout semester, proving excellent networking opportunities: see

Psychology at Stirling is one of the leading psychology departments in the UK. It ranked in the top 20 in the recent research assessment (REF 2014) and is one of only seven non-Russell group universities to do so (Birkbeck, Royal Holloway, Sussex, Essex, St Andrews and Bangor; source Times Higher Education magazine). Its quality of research publications ranked third in Scotland after Aberdeen and Glasgow. Furthermore, the relevance of its research activity to society received the highest possible rating which only four other psychology departments in the UK achieved (REF 2014 results).

Psychology at Stirling University is small enough to fully involve Masters students in our lively and collegial community of research excellence.

Your full-time dissertation is supervised by leading UK academics.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

The course is designed for those going on to do further research in the field of human- animal interaction, or in careers where a knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of this field would be beneficial.  In particular, the placement and research project can enable students to gain direct experience tailored to individual career aspirations.


98% of our postgraduate leavers are in employment or further study withing six months of graduating - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2015/16
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